The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Liana Ascolese

photo of Liana Ascolese
Legislative Aide
Office of Cambridge City Councilor Alanna Mallon

Degrees & graduation year: Bachelor of Political Science, 2016; Master of Public Policy, 2017

Current position: Legislative Aide to Cambridge City Councilor Alanna Mallon

What I do: As Alanna Mallon’s aide, I am often the first point of contact when constituents call or email our office. I schedule and sit in on meetings and help our residents access City services. I also do policy research, work on our legislative agenda, attend all Council and committee hearings, and do whatever else is necessary to make sure we are on track and making progress on Alanna’s agenda. I’m also responsible for maintaining all of our social media accounts, our website, and her newsletter, as well as writing public statements and op-eds to further engage our constituents and share her thought process as an elected official.

How I ended up working there: I was hired as Alanna’s campaign manager right out of graduate school. I found the job through a UMass Democrats networking group, but it just so happened that Alanna and I got along well, had a lot in common, and have really similar life experiences and points of view. After winning the election in November 2017, she asked me to come work for her in City Hall as her aide.

The best part of my job: Working for someone who is thoughtful, empathetic, and willing to put in hard work to advocate on behalf of people who need her. We have really similar approaches to how we do our jobs, and I’ve also learned a lot from her about how to successfully navigate different personality types to be able to work with everyone. We are also friends and have a lot of fun together—sometimes I joke that I talk to Alanna more than my own mom—and it’s true, but it’s so important to like and believe in the person you’re working for.

A recent exciting work experience: We’re working on some really interesting economic development initiatives in one of my favorite neighborhoods, which is Central Square. It’s been exciting to work on these projects—which involve a Business Improvement District and arts zoning—and help move them along.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: The classes were really versatile and gave me a broad set of skills that I can apply anywhere. What I love about my job is that every day is different, so it’s really important to be able to learn about diverse policy areas quickly and in depth. My time at SPP definitely prepared me to do that.

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: Sometimes in grad school I was frustrated that there weren’t more opportunities to specialize, since I thought I knew what I wanted to do. But I like that SPP’s classes were broadly applicable to many different policy areas. A policy degree opens a lot of doors, and you may not know you have a certain interest until you actually start working, so keep all your options open, even during school.

Future plans: Alanna’s term ends in 2019, so we’ll see what happens after that! One day I may run for office myself